“I was mostly dragged up. My mother had an unhappy childhood and had a baby (me) aged 18 because she wanted someone to love her. By the time she was 25 she had three kids. I had a different father to my siblings, but she felt it was best to tell me their dad was also mine. The official lie being that he was in prison when I was born, explaining why he wasn’t on my birth certificate. I would eventually be told the truth after leaving home. Turns out my biological father was engaged to his current wife when he got my mother pregnant. To this day she doesn’t know I exist.
My step-father had an horrendous childhood, and was a cold man. Growing up it was obvious that he didn’t love me as much as he did the other two. He wasn’t around a huge amount during the formative years, and didn’t live with us full time until I was eleven. Before that he would come over after school had finished and be gone by 5:30pm. He provided extras which went some way towards supplementing our benefits income, but she was awful with money and we never had much. The phone and electricity were forever being cut off, and the cupboards would often be rather bare. I have many memories of her asking for money from anyone that might give it to her. I grew up thinking that her life must have been utterly miserable. I knew above all else that I wanted more for myself when I was an adult, and had to do things differently rather than repeat history.
Being the eldest I was regularly left alone to babysit the younger two from a very young age. One distinct memory shines through the rest of the garden catching light one night when she was out. I was nine years old and seeing fire through the living room doors was absolutely terrifying. Fortunately our neighbours across the road were home and came to our rescue. Shortly after this my mother took in a friends 16 year old son and he lived with us for a while. He would take advantage of me when she wasn’t home which lead to me having an unhealthy attitude towards men for many years afterwards.
We moved house over a dozen times, and I went to eight different schools where I often endured bullying for being the new girl. The abuse I suffered in the last one was significant, and lead to a suicide attempt. By my last year of high school my self esteem and confidence were at an all time low, and I hated going in. I’d do anything for a day off and subsequently fell behind with my work.
My step-father was a permanent feature in our lives by then, and it’s clear to me now that he was a deeply unhappy functioning alcoholic. We got into a fight one morning about me not wanting to go to school, and he punched me in the face. He was often harsh with his words, but usually kept his fists to himself. He almost broke my nose, and this became the catalyst for me leaving home. I was fifteen, had no qualifications and £50 in my pocket. He said I’d be pregnant and living in a hovel within the year. I went to stay with an aunt in her two bed maisonette where I slept on the floor of her kids room, between the cot and the bunk beds. It wasn’t ideal, but I was safe.
No-one escapes the psychological fallout of a childhood like mine. I went through major bouts of depression as a young adult, and lived life in self-destruct mode for many years to numb my pain. I’d go on all-weekend benders and sleep with people I wouldn’t have even looked at when sober. Eventually I had a breakdown aged 22, and sought help via an amazing counsellor. She taught me that I needed distance from my family, that I deserved to be loved and how to respect myself. Although she tried her hardest, she couldn’t get me to tackle my love of booze or partying. That would come later, along with breakdown number two.”